Marriage with a Liar (婚前試愛)

Some movies exist to shed light on the nature of young love and marriage. This movie exists so that Chrissie Chau, Carol Yeung, Him Law and Z.O. can shed their clothes. And that’s really all there is. No need to pretend otherwise as the first thing you see when the end credits roll is a giant thank you to Playboy condoms. Of course perceptive viewers may find a vague plot involving an impending wedding between Kiki (Chau) and Jerry (Lau); the liars and the lying, meanwhile, are easier to spot.

It didn’t have to be this way though. Young people have affairs, sometimes right before their wedding day, so the story warrants its celluloid treatment. In this movie, Kiki and Jerry both get comfortable with a passing stranger. Kiki beds Jack (Z.O.), who saves her from a bumbling bar assault, while police officer Jerry seemingly violates some ethics code by sleeping with Bobo (Yeung), whom he meets on duty after accidentally swapping phones. But director Patrick Kong strays in the execution, and the result is a patchy, hollow glimpse at what happens when marriage partners are unfaithful.

One of his big missteps is the misuse of flashbacks, which he employs throughout the film. The shifts in time help to layer the deceit and expose the anatomy of an affair, but they are poorly edited. When the tale returns to real time, the gaps in storytelling become even more apparent. This problem is especially acute after Jerry and Bobo part ways. One intertitle later, it is wedding night. Since the cheating right before marriage dilemma is a primary issue in this movie, it would seem that the absence of three days is a significant omission.

The flashbacks also keep the two leads separated for a good 65 minutes of the movie. (Jerry does not even make an appearance until the 20 minute mark.) This leaves only brief phone interactions with which to reconstruct the pair’s relationship and obscures Kiki and Jerry’s motivations for cheating. Better actors may have aided the otherwise absent character development, but Chau, Law, et al. are varying degrees of incompetent. When she is not framed for the looking, Ms. Chau spends the better part of her screen time barking and more than lives up to the controlling, insecure stereotype that the media has led to believe constitutes most of Hong Kong women. Law fares slightly better, if only because one feels sorry for Jerry for putting up with the nagging Kiki.

With the audience little invested in the characters or the progression/regression of the couple’s relationship, the ample IIB raciness should provide generous distractions. Kong capitalizes on the assets of his lead quartet in ways he couldn’t with the waifish and schoolgirlish Stephy Tang, his usual muse. For some, that’s worth the price of admission.

Prod: Wong Jing 王晶
Dir: Patrick Kong Pak-Leung 葉念琛
Writer: Patrick Kong Pak-Leung 葉念琛
Cast: Chrissie Chau Sau-Na 周秀娜; Him Law Chung-Him 羅仲謙; Z.O. Shen Zhi Ming 沈志明; Carol Yeung Tsz-Yiu 楊梓瑤; Jacquelin Ch’ng Si-Man 莊思敏; Timmy Hung Tin-Ming 洪天明; Charmaine Fong Hiu-Man 方皓玟; King Kong 金剛; Evergreen Mak Cheung-Ching 麥長青; Anjayliya Chan Ka-Bo 陳嘉寶; Dada Lo Chung-Chi 盧頌之; Gill Mohindepaul Singh 喬寶寶; Eddie Law Tin-Chi 羅天池
Time: 85 min
Lang: Cantonese and Mandarin
Reviewed: 2012